Nine calls; one cancelled on scene, one false alarm (time waster) and seven by ambulance.
An early start and a call to a 55 year-old male ‘fitting’ on the South Bank. He and his brother were waiting for us – he was lying on a bench going through the act of fitting and his brother explained, in broken English, that they were alcoholics and his brother had been off the booze for a few days, thus the fit. It all seemed well rehearsed to me and my cynical mind was cautious about the next step.
The MRU showed up and did very little except help with my obs; there wasn’t much else to do as the man jerked about on the bench, proving to us how ill he was. I wasn’t buying it and neither was my colleague. Neither did the ambulance crew when they arrived but, with no proof of deceit, he was taken to hospital and his brother wandered off without concern.
Later that day I was called to a 30 year-old male ‘collapsed’ in the City. He had a hospital band around his wrist and the police were on scene attending to him. I recognised him immediately as the ‘fitting’ man’s brother. He’d been in hospital on this side of town and discharged himself. Then he’d feigned collapse to obtain sympathy and another trip to hospital but this time he wasn’t getting it. The crew recognised him too; he was unlucky because he’d managed to draw attention to himself and the people who’d been called – myself and the same ambulance crew as earlier – knew what he was doing. Let me explain...
The man had a bottle of liquid on him and the police made a point of trying to identify what it was. At first it was thought he was carrying alcohol but he wasn’t – he had hospital cleaning fluid on him and he was drinking it. He and his brother had a little scam going; they’d both go to separate hospitals, as many times as possible in a day and steal as much cleaning fluid and hand gel as possible so that they could drink it and glean any alcohol from it. It’s happening more and more and the depth of this fairly new abuse has only just been brought to our attention.
He recovered very quickly when he realised we were on to him and he declined further aid (of course). I referred him to London Street Rescue in the hope that he could be taken off the street but he had a bad record with them and, although they told me they’d visit him to help, I didn’t expect he’d hang around for them. Both men are Lithuanian, neither work or contribute to the country and both are stealing resources openly and without punishment. Can I really be labelled racist for venturing the opinion that we should no longer tolerate such abuse from people we invite into this country for protection and a better life? There are plenty of foreign nationals here who contribute to our society and are part of it – Poles, for example – a few of them are drinkers and we visit them too but at least they are paying for the service!
I was cancelled on an earlier call for a 28 year-old male who fell from his bike when he started convulsing mid-cycle. The crew was on scene and I wasn’t required.
Then a 25 year-old man who was having ‘chest pain’ at a train station. He seemed a bit young for all that and I discovered that he’d actually had a fit and was slowly recovering by the time I got on scene. He was a nice chap (a film producer) and he hadn’t experienced a seizure for some time but was known to have them. He agreed to go to hospital so that they could work out a medical solution for him.
Another fitting person, this time a 30 year-old female, was on the floor of her office and had been convulsing for seven minutes, according to her colleagues. The crew was with me and an MRU arrived too and I got on with giving her diazepam as the oxygen was administered and obs were confirmed. Only after this had been done did her colleagues find out what her condition was; they had a letter stating that she was to be left alone and given nothing because she would recover on her own. On no account, the note said, was an ambulance to be called. Too late for that – they should have looked more closely at it when she gave it to them.
A 60 year-old man who had been arrested for stealing from his employer demanded an ambulance for chest pain and so I was asked to check him out. He told me he had angina and was suffering but he didn’t have his GTN with him and spent most of the time swearing and insulting the police for arresting him when there were ‘real crimes’ taking place out there. He wasn’t at all convincing but he claimed to have a history of MI (although he was vague about the date), so he was treated as genuine and carted off, with a police escort, to hospital.
My second chest pain call was to a shop where a 39 year-old member of staff felt dizzy, had abdo pain (and chest pain) and felt generally unwell. He told me he had a history of this but that nothing had been discovered by his doctors. He went to hospital and hopefully they’ll pinpoint the problem, otherwise he’s destined to go through life suffering.
Multiple Sclerosis is a devastatingly debilitating disease and my next patient, a 25 year-old man, was at home with his family, living with it but now there were other problems and he was vomiting and suffering kidney pains. His concerned mum called an ambulance because, despite putting up with the condition on a day-to-day basis, this was a new development and she feared something more acutely serious had struck.
I was late getting home because my last call took me back into the West End in rush hour. I was going to the aid of a 17 year-old girl who was hyperventilating at a large department store, where ironically, a number of past hyperventilating patients had demanded my attention – maybe it’s a stressful place to work.
It took ten minutes to calm her down and convince her that she wasn’t going to die. Her colleagues were pleased that she was getting better because they had been unable to slow her breathing down and I could hear her from a distance when I first arrived. She insisted on going to hospital ‘just in case it came back’ and I thought she might need to steel herself for life if this was how she generally went about dealing with her concerns. Yes, she’s only seventeen but life is cruel to young, vulnerable and sensitive people. How’s she going to deal with real crises in the future?